The Myth of Billy Squier and “Rock Me Tonite”

It is a music video that does not hold up well – if you haven’t seen it recently, click herebut did the “Rock Me Tonite” video in fact destroy Billy Squier’s popularity?

That’s a common belief:

But the evidence suggests otherwise. It is hard to imagine how that video could have helped Squier’s career, yet somehow it seemed to.

After passing muster with Squier, his agents, and record-company management – any of whom could have killed the video if they had chosen to – the video was released in mid-July of 1984, as an MTV World Premiere. At that time, MTV was the single most influential and popular music outlet in the nation. With this video in high-rotation on MTV, “Rock Me Tonite” became Squier’s biggest hit ever, spending 16 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 and climbing to #15 in September of 1984.

Only many months later – in November of 1984 – did Squier voice displeasure with the video, as he attempted to explain flagging ticket sales for his latest tour.

The video and the song had been a success. The rest of the album, not so much, and Squier’s short, improbable run of relative success as a pop artist began its inevitable, and fairly swift, decline.

So while, strictly speaking, it is correct that Squier’s career declined after “Rock Me Tonite,” that does not mean one caused the other. “Rock Me Tonite” was a big hit, then came the fall. And that makes Billy Squier like a host of other similar bands – Loverboy, the Tubes, Night Ranger – that had similar (or greater) levels of success and then saw their popularity fade just as quickly.

And unlike Squier, they have no “Rock Me Tonite” video to blame.

Post-script: A quick review of Squier’s music videos prior to working with Ortega raise questions of whether Squier indeed had the “much grittier” image that he claimed.

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